Ancient Chinese Mythological Figures
Curator and author: Rue Hsu
Sculptor: Yao Hong You
English translation: James Tang
Mythology started from verbal tales and evolved into written form along with cultural advancement. As I read these mythological tales, I became attracted by the artistic charms coming out of the mysterious images that inspired imaginations in my head. Some of these mythical figures combined both human and animal characteristics and were elevated to divinity. For example, “dragon”, the totem that symbolizes the Chinese people, is seen with many characteristics of other species, such as snake body, beats legs, eagle claws, horse head, snake tail, deer antlers, and fish scales. When all the power of these species combined into one form to represent human, it was then viewed as divinity by our ancestors. These mythical figures helped our ancestors survive in struggles against odds with their high moral standards and commitments.
As a modern art creator, cultural heritage is always part of the necessary genes, connotation and temperament. Mr. Yao-Hong You, the sculptor, and I both feel that mythology is the most mysterious and brilliant page of the Chinese culture. Such cultural heritage needs to be passed on with creative elements from generation to generation. We collaborated on the images of mythical figures based on the existing impression and our own imaginations. Mr. You’s master level sculpture work has made these mythical figures remarkably lively with rich expressions, postures, clothing, ornaments, and colors. My hope is that more people, both domestically and internationally, will be attracted to learn the rich, mysterious, and colorful Chinese culture through my collection, narratives, and exhibitions.
The following commentary was adopted from Study of Chinese Mythology written by Tan Da-Xian and published by the Commercial Press of Taiwan in 2004:
The Chinese mythology is fairly comparable to mythologies from India, Greece, and Egypt. There are more than 50 ethnic groups in China, each with many excellent mythological tales, particularly the Han people. Many of them are very positive, healthy, and beautiful based on their contents and artistic appearance.
Mythological tales reflected a brave exploration and naive explanation of natural phenomena by our ancestors, as well as their minds while struggling to survive against the hardships, such as “Shooting down nine suns by Hou Yi” and “Patching up the sky by Nüwa”…….. When fighting began between predators and preys, mythological tales such as “Battles between the Yellow Emperor and Chi You” surfaced to reflect their communities and the struggles among them.
Ancient mythology was one of the best weapons of arts by the ancient Chinese ethnic groups. It provided inspiration and courage for them to endure tough and unpredictable struggles against natural hardships and enemies. From these mythological tales, they obtained confidence, wisdom, courage, as well as the fighting will to survive and overcome the odds.
Ancient mythology documented some useful knowledge and was used to educate others. They reflected the caring of natural and sociological phenomena by ancient people while inspiring them to search for the truth and to nurture the artistic, healthy, and positive imaginaions.